Escambia needs a criminal justice system that is cost effective, operates fairly, and keeps us safe. However, our jail is crowded, expensive, and houses many non-violent, pretrial defendants who could safely reside in the community with their family and continue to work while awaiting court.
All data in this report is based on an analysis of Escambia inmate data on July 31, 2017, which serves as a snapshot of the jail’s makeup.
As of that date, Escambia County detained approximately 1795 people, giving it one of the highest jail incarceration rates in the state. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Escambia’s incarceration rate is roughly 80% higher than the state average, even though its crime rate is only 40% higher than state average. In our county, falling crime rates have not resulted in falling incarceration.
Unlike prisons which only hold people convicted of felonies, our jails hold a mixture of people. About a third of the inmates have been convicted and are serving relatively short sentences. Another third is individuals deemed ineligible for release because the inmates have been accused—but not yet found to have—of a violation of probation, terms of pretrial release, or for some other reason. The last third await trial and thus are presumed innocent.
Because of this mixed population, simple changes to our policies and practices can result in rapid and significant declines in the jail population. With commitment from local stakeholders and local government, Escambia can build and manage a smarter jail—a jail that saves taxpayer money, both now and in the long term, with no compromise to public safety.
The following report was written and researched by Benjamin Stevens, ACLU of Florida staff attorney.